Hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights Subcommittee and the Senate Rules Committee were both attempts to grant legitimacy to the absurd notion that filibusters against judicial nominees are unconstitutional and that the Senate should change its very nature as the more deliberative house of Congress so that the narrow GOP majority could ensure approval of even the most extreme Bush administration judicial nominees.
Many aspects of Pryor’s record are troubling, from his record on civil rights to those of reproductive choice and religious liberty. Of particular concern are Pryor’s views on the limits on Congress’ authority to enact laws protecting individual and other rights.
1 Jonathan Ringel, “Conservative AG Would Be Controversial 11th Cir. Pick,” Fulton County Daily Report (Jan. 8, 2003).
2 See Law Professors’ Letter of July 13, 2001. A full copy of the letter, which elaborates further on these criteria, is available from People For the American Way.
President Bush's decision to nominate Alabama Attorney General William Pryor - a breathtakingly extreme right-winger - to a lifetime seat on a federal appeals court clearly exemplifies Bush's willingness to divide, rather than unite. People For the American Way vehemently opposes William Pryor's confirmation in the Senate.
The Senate Rules Committee is holding a hearing on Thursday, June 5, to discuss a resolution by Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist that would effectively eliminate the use of the filibuster for all nominations requiring the Senate’s approval. Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott has recently called for an even more radical step by Senate Republicans – the so called “nuclear option” – which would entail the naked abuse of power to overturn longstanding Senate rules that protect against the abuse of power by narrow majorities.
It is considered likely that at least one member of the U.S. Supreme Court will resign when the current term ends this month, and it is quite possible that the vacancy or vacancies this summer will be the first of three or four openings on the Court over the next several years. At stake in the appointment of new Supreme Court justices is the law of the land for the next generation – or longer. At risk are many of the great social justice achievements of the 20th Century.
Two far-right justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, have led the destructive revival of a once-discredited “states’ rights” approach to the Constitution. A series of 5-4 decisions have embraced new theories advanced by right-wing legal advocates affiliated with the Federalist Society, weakening federal civil rights protections and declaring other urgent issues off limits to action by the U.S. Congress.
The White House, its right-wing allies, and some Senate Republicans are waging a pre-emptive war designed to eliminate one important tool at the disposal of senators concerned about extremist Supreme Court nominees – the Senate filibuster.